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Phrasal Verb Focus - Phrasal Verbs about Speaking


This phrasal verb feature focuses on phrasal verbs we use when talking about speaking and conversation. Obviously, using "tell" or "say" or "speak", etc. is absolutely correct when relating conversations. However, if you want to stress HOW the person said something, phrasal verbs come in handy (idiom=be useful).

Negative Speaking

go on
to continue to talk about a subject after the interest of the listener has been exhausted.
harp on
inf. to repeatedly talk about a certain subject
ramble on
to talk for a long time about something which is not very interesting to the other people in the conversation
rabbit on (British)
as above
run on (American)
as above

Speaking Quickly

rattle off
to say a list or impressive number of facts very quickly
reel off inf.
as above
whip off inf. (American)
as above


butt in
to rudely enter another conversation
chip in
to add a specific point to a conversation

Speaking suddenly

blurt out
to say something suddenly, usually without thinking
come out with
to say something suddenly


come up with
to add a new idea to a conversation
to go along with
to agree with someone else

Not Speaking

shut up
to stop talking, often used as an imperative (very rude)
break off
suddenly stop speaking
clam up
to refuse to speak or become silent during a conversation
dry up
run out of ideas of interesting comments, finish speaking because you don't know what to say next or have forgotten what you would like to say

Speaking Rudely

talk at
to talk to someone without listening to what they have to say
talk down to
to verbally treat someone in an inferior manner
go off
to speak angrily about something
put down
to criticize someone or something

Last week I went to visit my friend Fred. Fred is a great guy but at times he can really go on about things. We were speaking about some of our friends and he came out with this incredible story about Jane. It seems she had butted in while he was harping on his favorite complaint: Service in restaurants. Apparently, he had been running on for quite a while putting down almost every restaurant he had been to by rattling off a list of his visits to different restaurants in town. I guess Jane felt that he was talking at her and was fed up with it. She went off about what a rude person he was which shut him up pretty quickly! I thought about blurting out that maybe she was right, but decided to clam up in order to not upset him.

As you can see by using these phrasal verbs the reader gets a much better idea of the dynamics of the conversation. If the above story was reported by saying "she told him", "he said" etc., it would be pretty boring indeed. In this way the reader gets a real sense of the personalities of the speakers.

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